Argyle’s 100 years

Help Bath’s oldest orchestra celebrate its centenary by attending a concert in St Alphege’s, Oldfield Lane on Thursday, 23rd March at 7.30. There will be a lively programme of new and familiar music, and refreshments will be available during the interval. 

Until recently the orchestra rehearsed and performed at the United Reformed Church, Argyle Street (hence its name), but with the closure of the church and all the valuable community space, rehearsals have moved to the URC in Odd Down.

The orchestra was formed in 1922 as a group playing for church services. It gave its first public performance featuring movements from Handel’s Water Music in March 1923 under the baton of Walter Smith, the church organist. The orchestra remained solvent even with subscriptions fixed at a princely three shillings a year! In 1924 the delighted treasurer was able to announce that with nine pence in profit they could enjoy a half-day excursion.

During the war blackouts interfered with rehearsals, but the orchestra was able to reassemble for concerts in 1946 with Wilfred Wade, the church organist, at the helm. John Fenning, Head of Music at Culverhay School, became the conductor in 1961. For the 50th anniversary concert he wrote a short history of the orchestra, which provided many of the details for this summary.

Following David Sheppard and Derek Croome, Tim Robb, then leading the Bath Symphony Orchestra, was invited to become the conductor. The Argyle repertoire became quite adventurous including first performances of works by Stephen Dodgson and Michael Short and rarities rescued by the conductor and Martin Cawte. Some years ago, in a Bath Chronicle review, Tim Bullamore advised audiences searching for imaginative programmes to come to Argyle concerts. 

Tim Robb’s passion for Haydn and Mozart led to wind players being invited to join the orchestra for the summer concerts. Last year, soon after the invasion of Ukraine, the Argyle joined other local musicians for a successful fundraising concert in Bath Abbey. Among others, the orchestra’s leader, Rosalind Osborne, played an important part in organising this moving event. 

In September the new conductor, Adam Laughton, Director of the Frome Festival, will be leading The Argyle String Orchestra into its next century.

Tickets for the Argyle’s centenary concert will be available on the door or in advance through

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